Otara School links literacy success to education partnerships

by Ngā Haeata Mātauranga

This case study focuses on Wymondley Road School principal Tone Kolose and his school’s experience of boosting the literacy achievement of its mostly Māori and Pasifika learners. 

Research on literacy

Literacy and numeracy skills are the foundation for continuing learning and provide access to other parts of the curriculum. 

National and international studies show that some New Zealand students are not developing the literacy and numeracy skills they need during primary school and are not progressing in line with their peers. A high proportion of Māori students, Pasifika students, and students from poorer communities are not developing these skills. 

Research shows that these differences do not necessarily occur if teaching is made more effective through professional development and support. It also emphasises that when teachers have low expectations of their Māori learners, those learners achieve less than other students after a year at school even when their starting point was similar.

Successful practices

Students who are behind their peers in literacy and numeracy development on entry to primary school can often catch up when the right support and teaching is provided.

Parents need to know what literacy and numeracy skills their child requires to continue their learning, what the school and teachers are doing to address any issues, and how they, as parents, can provide support. Where students are not achieving, schools need to identify options to better support and engage them.

Bringing family and community knowledge into the classroom and using that knowledge as a resource for the school can effectively strengthen teaching, decrease disparities across different curriculum areas, enhance learner identity, and raise achievement.

Reflective questions

These questions might guide you as you read the case study.

  • Improving the literacy achievement of Wymondley School students has been an important long-term focus at the decile 1 primary school. School leaders have focused on improving teaching practice and developing strong education partnerships. How could you improve the literacy and numeracy teaching practice of your staff? How could you develop effective education partnerships that are focused on effective literacy and numeracy teaching and learning at your school? What programmes and research could help you achieve this goal, and why?
  • Research shows there are a range of home and school interventions that have been particularly successful for Māori learners. Reading Together (for English-medium schools) is one, and Tatari, Tautoko, Tauawhi (a phonological awareness programme for Māori-medium schools) is another. Identify the support you have available for your Māori learners. Could it be strengthened and improved this year?
  • Tone emphasises the importance of using data to improve teaching practice and upskill, inform, and inspire his education partners. In what ways could your school do the same? Who could help you achieve this goal?

Further reading

The following links are to research reports on the Education Counts website.

Strengthening education in Mangere and Otara (2004)

Analysis and use of student achievement data (2004)


Ministry of Education (February 2009). Ngā Haeata Mātauranga The Annual Report on Māori Education 2007/08. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Ngā Haeata Mātauranga: Assessing Māori education – Education Counts website

Tags: Partnerships and networks

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